In a case where the defendant was charged with 75 counts of criminal possession of a forged instrument in the second degree and criminal possession of a forgery device, during a suppression hearing the defendant moved to have the physical evidence seized from his trunk suppressed due to an illegal inventory search.
An inventory search is a warrantless search that the police are permitted to conduct in connection with lawfully impounding a vehicle. In order for any evidence collected in an inventory search to be admissible, the inventory search must be reasonable and must be conducted according to established police procedure designed to meet legitimate objectives. The objectives of an inventory search are threefold: first, to protect the property of the owner while it is in the custody of the police; second, to protect the police against claims that property was lost, stolen, or damaged; third, to protect the police from dangerous items in the vehicle that might be hidden. While the police may find incriminating evidence during an inventory search, a legitimate reason for an inventory search is not find incriminating evidence.
In Espinoza, during the suppression hearing the court found problems with the way the inventory search was conducted. When the defendant was stopped by a deputy sheriff for speeding, the defendant was arrested because he was driving on a suspended license. The passenger was also arrested because of an outstanding warrant. While waiting for the tow, the deputy sheriff searched the defendant’s wallet and the vehicle and discovered several forged debit and credit cards, as well as a card reader.